Being under the care of Dr. David Scher has been life-changing for our son, Ryan. We first came to Hospital for Special Surgery and met Dr. Scher in March of 2015 when Ryan was 8 years old. At this point Ryan had been diagnosed four years earlier with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a peripheral neurological disorder that was affecting the muscles in Ryan’s feet. He had developed a cavus foot, with very high arches and bent & clawed toes. He also had a significant foot drop. His feet were turning inward and he was physically unstable. During these years before we met Dr. Scher we went through a number of measures to try to address Ryan's condition. We had Ryan fitted for ankle and foot orthotics. These AFOs helped improve Ryan’s gait and mobility. But leg braces have their downsides, and Ryan experienced skin breakdown and discomfort, not to mention the general inconvenience of being a small child needing to wear these orthotics at all times. And the AFOs could not help stave off the acceleration of Ryan’s foot deformities. Ryan’s feet were continuing to turn in and his dorsiflexion was becoming more limited. We next turned to serial casting to try to correct these issues. Casting is a tedious and lengthy process and after each round Ryan would experience some minor but always temporary relief. It was becoming clear that in order to meaningfully improve Ryan’s well-being we’d need to look for alternative strategies.
When we were recommended to Dr. Scher and looked into his profile it was impossible not to be instantly impressed. Dr. Scher is simply and incredibly the preeminent physician in his field. Knowing that we would be meeting a superior doctor with his excellent reputation and expertise was certainly reassuring. But remarkably, Dr. Scher’s educational background, experience, and position are not the first qualities that impress you upon meeting him. In addition to all of that Dr. Scher is warm and kind and accessible, which are characteristics that cannot be emphasized enough when you are taking your young child to meet a surgeon. Dr. Scher always spoke to us in clear terms, taking his time to explain complex medical conditions and procedures in plain language we could understand. Dr. Scher never over-promised but he always clearly outlined for us the ways in which he believed he could help Ryan. He gave us comfort and he gave us hope.
And perhaps most notably for us, from our very first meeting Dr. Scher has always treated Ryan with such gentleness and respect. In every interaction Dr. Scher addresses Ryan first, putting him at ease and making him feel like the most important person in the room. Even though he was a young child, Dr. Scher always insisted that Ryan be fully participatory in the process, understanding along the way his diagnosis, the symptoms he was experiencing as a result, and what outcomes surgery could perhaps achieve. It was Dr. Scher who really helped us start the dialogue with our son about his condition; yet another gift that Dr. Scher has given us.
In May of 2015 Dr. Scher performed two long and complex surgeries on both of Ryan’s feet, the second surgery two weeks after the first. The surgeries involved fascial releases, muscle lengthenings, tendon transfers, and osteotomies. These were difficult, intricate, and complicated procedures, and each surgery lasted 5 or 6 hours. Dr. Scher’s calm demeanor and confident command of his craft are what got us through this emotional time.
We couldn’t have asked for a better post-operative experience than what Hospital for Special Surgery provided. Ryan was given non-stop attention and service. His pain was managed and he was made comfortable. A private recovery room with the most stunning views overlooking the East River didn’t hurt either. HSS truly provided top-notch care.
Ryan’s condition will need continual monitoring and intervention throughout his life, and so our relationship with Dr. Scher is on-going. He sees Ryan every three to six months to assess his condition and his progress. In January of 2017 Dr. Scher conducted another lengthy, complex surgery on just one of Ryan’s feet. Our experience with that surgery was nearly identical to the two previous surgeries -- overall excellence and competence and superior service.
Practically-speaking these surgeries have made Ryan’s lifestyle measurably better. As Dr. Scher predicted, Ryan no longer needs to wear leg braces. This one element alone has been a game-changer. Things we never think twice about with our older child -- walking around barefoot, running on the beach, jumping off a dock into a lake -- have become available to Ryan because he no longer needs the AFOs. He now leads a busy, active, physical life typical of any 11-year old. After these surgeries Ryan’s overall strength and mobility have vastly improved. He runs with greater ease. He can go up and down the stairs with much more skill and confidence. His stamina and endurance sometimes seem never-ending. He has conquered some extraordinary feats too, including racing up the 72 steps to the Philadelphia Art Museum just days after removal of his surgical cast; hiking the most difficult trails throughout Acadia National Park; skiing his first black diamond run; and ascending high mountain peaks in Vermont. But one of the greatest joys after these surgeries is also one of the simplest -- our daily walks to and from school, which prior to the surgeries would have over-taxed Ryan's body, are now a treasured routine and have taught us not to take even the most basic things for granted.
Simply put we are overwhelmingly grateful for our experience with Dr. David Scher and Hospital for Special Surgery. Watching your child endure any of these hardships is immeasurably difficult. And somehow Dr. Scher and his team at HSS have made this process not only bearable but a positive experience filled with important life lessons and hope. We cannot recommend this practice enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you Dr. Scher!